Budget Makeover: What you get for $15,000

Smart strategies to help you get to most out of your $15,000 budget. You can even sell your house in a few years and recoup this investment.

Photo By: Charles H Meacham

Bang for Your Buck

Best for: Someone who plans on spending less than three years in their house. While all kitchen upgrades add resale value to your home (experts say you can expect to recoup between 90 and 102 percent of your investment), minor remodeling has the surefire guarantee of a full return.

"Small changes can have a big impact," says Janice Anne Costa, author of Everything and the Kitchen Sink and editor of the trade publication Kitchen and Bath Design News. "We're not talking about a triple glaze on cabinets or baroque cabinet carvings of course, but adding a new countertop or a fresh coat of paint. These can quickly reinvent the most-used room in your house." Here are some of the must-have ways you can get more bang for the buck.

Cost-Effective Surfaces

Surfaces get a lot of wear and tear in the kitchen. So freshening up the countertops can instantly reinvent your kitchen. While precious marble or stone will most likely be a budget-buster at this price point, there are economical choices that are also now virtually indestructible, too. CaesarStone, for example, is 93-percent crushed quartz that's combined with polymer resins to create a tough-as-nails, nonporous surface, according to Janice Anne.

Repaint, Don't Replace

Often the biggest expense in a kitchen, new cabinets will probably be out of reach at this price point. If you have an older kitchen, it may be wiser to repaint or refinish the existing cabinets, which are likely wood. It will cost half as much as the price of new wood cabinets — and smarter than downgrading to particleboard to fit the budget, Janice Anne points out.

Open-Concept Shelving

Consider tearing out cabinets completely and going for a trendier, open-shelving design, like the one pictured above. While this is an inexpensive option, it's important to keep shelves clutter-free to maintain the stylish, airy look.

Update the Hardware

The easiest and cheapest way to update a kitchen (besides painting the walls) is to install new cabinet hardware. There are plenty of styles to choose from, making it one of the easiest and least expensive ways to inject a pop of personality. Here, vintage-inspired bin pulls give this kitchen an instant facelift.

Amp up Your Appliances

If your existing appliances work well, forgo new, costly replacements. "Consider putting a new panel over your current refrigerator door," suggests Janice Anne. Only don't squander the potential to increase the kitchen's functionality for the sake of cost, she adds. however, if a new dishwasher or a convection oven will make your life easier, take the plunge and invest in that new appliance.

From: Dave Stimmel

Simple Touches

$15K TIP: Creating a focal point in the kitchen goes a long way. Renew your kitchen sink by replacing your chrome-finish faucet with an antique brass farmhouse style, for example, or personalize that shelf over your window by adding a collection of Depression-era glass vases.